In this page, we will discuss the Method of Loci, an ancient memory technique that survived thousands of years and it is used nowadays from many people around the world. The technique was named from the Latin word locus which means location. “Loci” is just the plural of locus.
As you may understand this method has to do with places. It actually uses spatial associations between the content one needs to memorize and a familiar location. Although the method of loci has no constraints about the places one can mentally visit, some people present it to be a mental journey to one’s house. Of course, it is the more rational someone to think their house as they use the method but just for reference, the method of loci can involve any familiar location. In the following example, I am going to use a map of a house.
The method of loci can be expanded to any extent. The eight-time world memory champion Dominic ‘Obrien, who has also written the book “How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week: 52 Proven Ways to Enhance Your Memory Skills“, he uses, in fact, the method of loci to a very large scale.
The method of loci is a memory technique that needs your visualization skill. You are going to visualize the rooms of your house and in every room you are going to put specific memory triggers that are associated with the content that you want to remember. Because of the familiarity of the places that you mentally visit the technique greatly increase memory capacity. The triggers may be anything, from the item itself to a symbolic picture of it. Dominic ‘O Brien calls this movement through the house’s rooms, a “journey” and as memory hooks he uses unusual experiences. He actually uses the method of loci combined with the power of the exaggerating experiences.
Let’s see how to improve your memory with this useful memory technique. I am going to show you a simple example of the method. You can think and form your versions of the method when you learn the technique. There are no constraints.
Method of Loci Example
Let’s suppose that you want to memorize the following list:
o Cell phone
The list is a random one. In the following figure, you can see the path I follow in the house and also the associations between the items of the list and the places of the house.
First of all, think a logical movement through the rooms of the house. This can be your daily routine as you wake up on your bed and you prepare to go to work. In the above example and also my daily routine I pass from the bathroom, 2nd bedroom, living room, kitchen and the front door.
There is no limit what you can think here. Only two rules apply; the places must be familiar and distinct. You must identify that every place you move on is different than the previous one.
Places can be in the same room provided that they are dissociative. Also, you can use any building and not only your house. You are free to visualize anything you like.
Creating a Mental Crazy Story
I would use the method like this:
I wake up in my bedroom and the first thing I see as I open my eyes is a monkey that stares at me. As I move to the bathroom I see a post-it paper on the mirror writing “Your computer is broken”. Damn this monkey broke it. I make my way to the second bedroom and on the desk I see a basket full of rotten apples and they smell terrible (sensual data increase memory capacity).
I throw them out of the balcony. As I move to the living room, the TV is on playing the Champions league soccer final and I watch for a while. As I move to the kitchen I take the small bike bag from the table and I move to the refrigerator to take the steak I cooked the previous day. I walk to the front door and as I close it behind me I hear the cell phone ringing from the inside (creates an annoying feeling because I forgot to take the cell phone with me – feelings also increase memory capacity).
This is a very simple example of the method of loci. As you can imagine, you can memorize a lot more things by creating more stop points. For instance, you can think every piece of furniture of the house as a new point. It is not necessary to change rooms to remember the next item.
You can memorize multiple objects in the same room by simply associating them with different locations in the same room. In my example, I placed the bike bag and the steak in the same room but at different locations; the bag was on the table while the steak was in the fridge.
Memory is Enhanced with Bizarre and Unique Stories
The method here was used in a very basic form. You can improve your memory by creating even more vivid and strange experiences as you move from place to place into your house. Your options are countless. Let your creativity expand and don’t put limits in your visualizations.
Remember: The more unique the experience, the more memorable will be. This limitless potential of the method is its beauty. The fact that you don’t have to follow a strict tactic in order to use it makes it greatly simple and efficient.
I just finished a project using chunking as a method to learn the Thai alphabet and a list of American presidents. The method of loci is going to be an ambitious project and will take quite a bit of preparation to put all of the permanent” furniture ” in place.
I do have a major question though. Once I have used the walk through system to place numbers or objects for one project, what is to keep those mental objects from interfering when I want to memorize a new set of data? I look forward to your reply.
You can ‘imaging’ new items you would like to see sa you walk through. Relate these items with the word/number/object you wish to memorize.
^an example of this is;
I don’t have a note board in my room but for the purpose of remmbering I have imagined that I do. I can then put notes, dates and other important things on this. As i wake up I can walk over to it and read over all the notes as i recall them.
that is good,i just wish that this method will give me good results
You can also distinct your projects by changing familiar places or the story or the items. You have many options.
I would like to use it for learning new languages quicker, how can I use it if will need to learn new words which can’t connect with objects. These words even sound foreign.
Happy new year!
I would like to use this method to study for my nursing degree. I have lots of things to memorize. My questions is: the things that I need to memorize are not objects, they are chunks of information. How do I use the method efficiently? Do I memorize the chunks of information first? then memorize the whole chapter using method of loci? What do you recommand?
i want to use this method for my criminology degree,i have lots of things to remember,so many chapters i can not even remember at one time
I would love to know more ways to use the method of loci. Is there another way to use loci. I am a major “Harry Potter” fan and I would love to use Hogwarts as what I call my “base” for loci. I’ve never been to Hogwarts but for me I think it would provide enough space for my ‘mind palace’. But I’ve been thinking if I were to use my house for my ‘base’ could I go outside. or does the method only work if your inside your ‘base’.
Sherlock fan also?
The method of loci is often touted and is in fact very powerful and effective…for one list of things, one time through your loci. Yes, you can always add more locations to your list, but eventually you’re going to be adding locations that you don’t have strong lifetime identifications with. So, maybe you think, ok, I’ll just recycle all the loci. Guess what, the first poster above raises a good question. I memorized a loci list of about 1,200 places, all the places (houses, schools, rooms in schools, etc.) in all the towns I’ve ever lived in and used it to learn Chinese characters. When I reached the end, I went back and learned more. I discovered that due to interference, I couldn’t remember either of the two lists. It’s like the two items are competing for the same space and you don’t remember anything. Sure you can add random objects in rooms (a bulletin board, a file cabinet) to stuff more loci into one place but how are you going to remember those objects, since they were just randomly added. I’m sick of people touting this system as if you could just use it over and over again. I’m pretty sure you can’t. I would love someone to prove me wrong. It’s great for memorizing things until your loci are filled up (one place gets one item) and then those items are stuck there for good: that’s both the strength and the weakness of this method.
See Magnetic Memory. com – there is website and podcast (Magnetic Memory) about Memory Palace (Loci) method. A guy who is leading it talks a lot about how to use this method over and over and explains how (mainly, you can visit new places, cafes, museums… memories them and use for the method).
I would like to help my students develop a way to quickly and easily remember their assigned music. Some are preparing long works for an exam. Any suggestions?
Several people have commented about not having enough unique locations in their house. It is not necessary or helpful to have an endless amount of items to use as pegs. I have been using a different version of this “house map” for more than 10 years now. Your set locations can be used over and over for different lists. If each list has a clear “label”, as it were, it works just fine. I personally use it to memorize chapter summaries in books. Every chapter is assigned to a peg, with 5 pegs in each room of my house. And the different parts of a peg function like a shelf on a bookshelf. For example, a typical couch has a left side, three cushions, a right side, and a back rest. Pictures and acronyms can be attached to every part of the chosen peg. Each book has a clear subject title and our brain is amazing–it can handle it. I have completed about 15 books using the same pegs repeatedly and have little trouble confusing the various books. My memory is terrible and this system, while it took awhile to set up and become comfortable with, has proven to be very effective.